Headlines for and against the effectiveness of the flu vaccine regularly make an appearance in the media each fall season. Education on how the flu vaccine works and what the vaccine protects against is critical in deciding to be vaccinated.
Research indicates what the most common strains of influenza viruses will be each flu season, and a vaccine is made to protect against several predominant strains. Antibodies develop in the body after the flu vaccine is administered providing protection against the viruses contained in the vaccine.
“Influenza kills more than 50,000 Americans annually. Additionally, the cost of missed school and job attendance productivity is in the billions of dollars,” Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease said. “The vaccine is very cost-effective benefiting, not only an individual and their family, but society as a whole.”
Flu vaccines are recommended for people over the age of six months old and should be given in October with most flu seasons peaking in January. It takes approximately two weeks after receiving the vaccination for people to build the antibodies to protect against flu viruses. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine declines over time requiring annual vaccinations.
People who have been vaccinated can still become ill with influenza. The flu vaccine affects people differently, and the viruses used in the making of the vaccine may differ from those circulating in a community. The flu vaccine doesn’t cause a vaccinated person to become ill with the flu. Those vaccinated may have soreness and swelling at the site of the shot and a low grade fever as mild side effects of the vaccine.
Being in the habit of covering you mouth when coughing or sneezing as well as regularly washing hands with soap and water helps to prevent the spread of germs, including the flu, but the best way to protect against the flu is to be vaccinated.
“The vaccine protection averages over 50% which is outstanding. A vaccinated person may still become infected but the illness is often less severe and shorter in duration,” Dowell said.